We are all familiar with Paul’s declaration in his great Resurrection Chapter, “O Death, where is your victory? O Death, where is your sting?” (I Corinthians 15:55, NASB). Do you know what Old Testament passage Paul was quoting there?
In the book of Hosea, the Lord is speaking through the prophet to condemn Israel for its unfaithfulness, specifically its insistence on worshiping idols instead of God alone. Hosea’s prophecy accuses: “Ephraim’s guilt has been collected (Ephraim was the largest tribe in Israel), and his sin has been stored up for punishment. Pain has come to the people like the pain of childbirth, but they are like a child who resists being born. The moment of birth has arrived, but they stay in the womb! Should I ransom them from the grave? Should I redeem them from death? O death, bring on your terrors! O grave, bring on your plagues! For I will not take pity on them” (Hosea 13:13-14, NLT).
The Lord, through Hosea, is abandoning His people to the grave – “Death, bring on your terrors! Grave, bring on your plagues! For I will not take pity on them.” What a different message this is from Paul’s use of these phrases in his letter to the Corinthians.
The difference in the use of these phrases is clear – Paul tells us that now “Death is swallowed up in victory” (I Corinthians 15:54), and from where does that victory come? “Thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ” (15:57). Paul says this message is “of first importance” – Christ died for our sins, He was buried, and He was raised on the third day (15:3-4). In fact, Paul says, the message of Christ’s death and resurrection is vital, because if Christ has not been raised, our faith is worthless, and we are still in our sins. If our only hope is in this life, then we are to be pitied above all others (15:17, 19).
In Hosea, the Lord says, “Bring on death!” because the people deserve destruction. In Corinthians, Paul says, “Bring on death!” because Jesus Christ has conquered death, and we will share in His victory: “But now Christ has been risen from the dead, the first fruits of those who are asleep. For since by a man came death, by a man also came the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ all will be made alive” (I Corinthians 15:20-22).
“Behold,” Paul says, “I tell you a mystery; we will not all sleep, but we will all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet; for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will all be changed…Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the word of the Lord, knowing that your toil is not in vain in the Lord” (I Corinthians 15:51-52, 58).
O Death, where is your victory?
O Death, where is your sting?
Death is swallowed up in victory!
~ Matt Kinnell, NHIM Board Chairman